What do you consider as your most significant life achievement thus far? I’m not talking about ethereal or transcendent accomplishments such as finding the perfect spouse or raising godly children. I’m talking more specifically about professional, social, or personal exploits that are either so unique or so masterful as to be virtually unmatched. When I pondered this question for myself, I was both embarrassed and disappointed that I couldn’t come up with a good answer. What about you?
You see, I’m surrounded by individuals who have already accomplished much in their lifetimes. My dad has painstakingly authored numerous Civil Engineering textbooks currently used in university curriculums all over the world. My sister has so many pharmaceutical publications to her name that everyone has lost count. My brother topped them both by hitting the game winning shot right in front of Coach Cal at the Calipari Father/Son Basketball Camp. As much as I would love to claim that I’m the Dr. Oz of Orthodontics, or that my charitable foundation overcame the stigma associated with mental illness, or that I won 23 Olympic gold medals, the reality has set in that my life is completely devoid of anything remotely approaching any of these note-worthy endeavors (I did go a whole year once without eating red meat. Does that count?). The truth of the matter is that I’m just an “average Joe” doing the best I can–playing out my unremarkable role in my rather nondescript life. I’m not complaining or lamenting necessarily (maybe whining just a tad), but I am somewhat more aware of this obvious void and the ticking time-clock during this particularly reflective juncture in life.
Let me share with you a couple of recent encounters I’ve had with other lifetime achievers that sparked this contemplative mood. A few weeks ago, I met a remarkable man named Dewey Sanders at a wedding reception of a mutual acquaintance. Dr. Sanders is a pastor and psychologist who works closely with abused children at the Methodist Home. Back in 2004, at age 67, he walked 3355 miles coast-to-coast across the United States raising awareness for a childhood drug prevention and education program. From Virginia Beach to San Francisco, his 5 month journey not only fulfilled a personal dream, but raised tens of thousands of dollars for a charitable cause. Through that walk, one could say that Dr. Sanders transitioned from a life of substance to a life of significance.
My good friend Robert Littrell and his wife Leslie have faced some very distinct emotional challenges through the years. Yet through all their personal trials and sufferings, they’ve managed to maintain their focus on loving and caring for others in need. For the past several years, they’ve invested their time, money, and efforts into the formation of Six Treasures Ministry–a charitable organization intent on providing personal attention, consistent accountability, and a long-term commitment to local homeless men. I’ve witnessed first-hand Robert and Leslie not only furnishing food and shelter, but also working faithfully and obediently while teaching bible study, helping to establish vocational skills, and building interpersonal relationships with the “least of these brothers” of ours.
I recently attended the funeral of R.J. Bontrager–another dear friend and ministry partner. Nearly 35 years my senior, I considered R.J. an inspirational spiritual mentor. His boundless energy, unwavering convictions, and love for the Lord touched all of us who were blessed by having known him. He never bragged about his numerous accomplishments but he stood tall (often literally on a chair) as a true and patriotic “Oak of Righteousness” in the fallen world around him. We’ll all miss him dearly.
My point is this: People like Robert and Dewey and R.J. realize that they were all created and put on this earth to make a difference–to hopefully make the world just a little bit better than the way they found it. These people aren’t international celebrities promoting their worldwide platforms, they’re just local friends and neighbors within our own personal sphere of influence. You probably know of many others just like them. While striving for individual goals and ambitious dreams, their lives still remain full of outreach, altruism, and philanthropy. Modesty and humility aside, they would have no problems answering the question I posed at the very beginning of this blog.
For many of the rest of us, however, our objective in life thus far has often been somewhat misdirected. We focus primarily on achieving wealth, gaining prestige, and accumulating things of substance for ourselves and our families. While I’m certainly not opposed to enjoying life and providing for our loved ones, when the looming specter of significance starts finally casting its shadow upon us, we invariably start asking ourselves, “Is this all there is? There’s got to be something more.” For “average Joes” like me, these questions are daunting–indicative of someone longing to make that jump from substance to significance. I’m just not quite sure where to start. I welcome your suggestions.
If you enjoy my writing, please continue to visit me at http://www.huangswhinings.com and follow me on twitter @KYHuangs. Feel free to make comments below or email me at KYHuangs@aol.com with your thoughts and ideas.